Ranger Station Episode 54: Trick Or Treat
With 800 episodes over the course of 22 years, the Power Rangers television show is arguably the single most successful live-action superhero franchise of all time, and certainly one of the strangest. Adapted from Japan's long-running Super Sentai series, created by manga legend Shotaro Ishinomori, the Power Rangers combined the giant robots and monsters of their Japanese counterpart with a completely different set of secret identities and problems, and became a pop cultural phenomenon. That's why we're looking back with an in-depth guide to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, including its source material, Kyuoryu Sentai Zyuranger, in ComicsAlliance's Ranger Station!
This week, Power Rangers giveth and Power Rangers taketh away as we get the most frustrating premise and one of the most memorable monsters of the entire series!
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Episode 54: Trick Or Treat
Writer: Daniel J. Sarnoff & Ellen Levy-Sarnoff
Director: Worth Keeter
Original Air Date: May 3, 1994
At this point, I think it's pretty clear that I love Power Rangers to pieces, but one of the things I rarely get to talk about here at ComicsAlliance is how much I love game shows --- particularly quiz shows. I love those things. Playing along with Jeopardy every night while I ate dinner was a tradition for most of my life, and during the height of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-mania, I was convinced that all I had to do was get to New York and I'd be pretty much set for life. Even The Price Is Right, in which the only skills are a comprehensive knowledge of grocery prices and a good judge of Plinko trajectory, is something I will watch in a heartbeat.
Seriously though, while we're on the subject: Always pass on the first Showcase, and never end your bid in 1, unless you want everyone with nothing better to do than watch daytime TV to think you're a real jackass.
There are, however, certain elements of game shows that I cannot stand. It is ridiculous to me that Wheel of Fortune is allowed to bill itself as "America's Game," and the fact that anyone on the planet could find entertainment in Deal or No Deal is absolutely mystifying to me. It is literally just a guessing game! You don't need to have any skill for that! It's random chance! You don't even need to do the basic arithmetic required to find an average from the remaining possibilities! All you need to do is wait for an imaginary man to say a number that sounds high enough! There is nothing to lose!
Sorry, didn't mean to get off on a tangent there, but it's important that you know going into this that I have some pretty strong opinions about game shows, because I need you to know what I mean when I say that I have never, ever hated a game show as much as I hate the one on this episode of Power Rangers.
There's going to be a monster and an evil plot to conquer Earth coming up later --- although not a particularly effective one, even by Rita Repulsa's standards --- but I'll tell you right now that most of my thoughts here are going to be about the game show Kimberly is going on this week. It's called Trick or Treat, and according to Tommy, it is the most popular game show in America. Not in Angel Grove, not even in California, which would be pretty impressive given that it looks like it's being filmed in someone's garage, but in the entire country. I want you to keep that in mind as we're going forward.
The prize at stake here is, of course, a brand new car, and apparently they're having whatever the Trick or Treat equivalent of the Teen Tournament is, because both of their contestants are students from Angel Grove High. When she goes on the show, Kimberly's going to be facing off against the back half of Bulk and Skull:
It's worth noting that while Skull's the one competing, Bulk is apparently looking to take ownership of the prize. And really, you might think you're tight with your best friend, but unless you're Community Property Ownership Of An Automobile tight, you ain't Bulk and Skull.
Obviously, the rest of the Power Rangers are going to go to cheer on their friend. All, that is, except Tommy, who continues his trend of being as far away from the action as possible by virtue of yet another important karate tournament:
There was a second there where I found it pretty difficult to believe that there are that many karate tournaments in this world --- given the show's original daily airing schedule, there have been two in as many weeks --- but then I remembered that this is also a world where karate is the only thing keeping the world from being destroyed by giant monsters. If we were watching superheroes battle the forces of evil with the power of, say, water polo, I imagine interest in that sport would hit an all-time high, too.
Anyway, Kimberly and Skull eventually make it to the set of Trick or Treat, and it's time to talk about how this game works.
Now, I'll say right up front that I have absolutely no problem with a Halloween-themed game show, even if the show's original air date of early May makes that a pretty strange choice. Really, though, year-round Halloween is almost as good as year-round Christmas, so I am down.
Ideally, I feel like the best way to do a Halloween-themed game show would be something along the lines of Legends of the Hidden Temple, but with a big haunted house and a focus on spooky categories and good-natured scares. That is not what Trick or Treat is. Trick or Treat is garbage. Straight up garbage.
Here are the rules, as described by the host:
"Each of you takes turns asking me trick questions. If you trick me, you'll be awarded pumpkin points. The player with the most pumpkin points wins."
Heck off outta here with this baby school nonsense.
First of all, the host is involved in the show?! I'm not saying that the viewers of Power Rangers necessarily need to take the 1950s Quiz Show scandals into account here, but the only way that is even remotely acceptable is if it's a Win Ben Stein's Money situation, and even then, they had to have an entire second host just to make it work! There's not even a veneer of fairness involved in this!
Second, and perhaps more importantly, what the hell qualifies as a "trick question?!"
A trick question is a question that's misleading, whether it's through wordplay or by having some kind of answer that subverts the expected structure. On Trick or Treat, a trick question is just a question that someone might not know the answer to. Or, as the rest of us call it, a question.Seriously, Skull's idea of a "trick question" to pose to the host --- who is only ever identified as "Monty" --- is, "What is my best friend's name?" That's not a trick question! That's just something some dude who just met you wouldn't know!
Kimberly's --- "Can you tell me the identity of the Power Rangers?" --- is even more frustrating, because there's actually a way to read that as a trick question. In fact, there are two ways: First, the face-value answer of "the Power Rangers are the super-heroes who protect Angel Grove from Rita Repulsa's monsters," which is in fact an identity, or the second, far more simple and correct answer of "No." Instead, Monty just stands there trying to remember if these super-heroes have ever publicly unmasked until time runs out. Again: A question you do not know the answer to is not a trick question! And also, if this show is going to come anywhere close to making sense, then Kimberly would have to prove that she knows the real answer just in case Monty made a guess!
Also, look at this rinky-dink busted-ass set where they're keeping score by flipping over little cardboard pumpkins from the School Supply store:
I said earlier that it looks like it's being filmed in a garage, and the craziest thing about that is that the actual garage on this show is very clearly a television studio! They made an actual television studio look more like a garage when they tried to make it look like a television studio than when they tried to make it look like a damn garage!
And this is the most popular game show in America.
Literally the only good thing about Trick or Treat is that everyone --- the host, the contestants, the stagehands, and the crowd --- has to dress in Halloween costumes at all time. I hate it. I hate it so much.
And really, that's a shame, because this episode also has one of the most memorable monsters of the entire series: the Pumpkin Rapper, who, per Zordon, will try to distract you with his sinister raps and rhymes!
Everything that involves this dude is actually really great, and it all gets started when Rita sees the game show set through her telescope and decides that early May is as good a time as any to throw a Halloween monster at her enemies. And that, in turn, leads to one of the all-time classic Tommy Is A Total Doofus moments:
Where do you think they came from, Tommy? Where do they always come from? What a trick question.
After Tommy dukes it out with a handful of Putty Patrollers, Zordon decides that the situation has become so urgent that the Rangers need to investigate, just as Kim's about to win her bush-league nonsense game and get a new car. So naturally, the Rangers decide to get her out of the game by staging...
A friggin' heart attack.
It's all worth it once they go into action, though. When they get to the foggy pumpkin patch that the Rapper has taken over, the Rangers quickly find that the pumpkins are a little more than they bargained for:
It's one of the best bits of physical comedy that we've gotten in a while, and what makes it even better is that the Power Rangers aren't the only people running around with pumpkins on their heads. The Putties get a set of fancy new chapeaux, too!
And that's great! It really makes me wonder why we don't see variants on Putties more often. We had a few in the creepy clown episode, and we're going to get an entirely new set once Lord Zedd shows up later on, but it seems like the kind of thing that would be happening all the time, right?
Unfortunately, that's not the only sign of wasted potential that we get here. As much as I love the Pumpkin Rapper in both concept and design --- just turning the standard Jack O'Lantern head upside down is a pretty brilliant touch --- he never actually gets around to doing much rapping. Like, if I have to sit through the rage-inducing Trick or Treat, I want a full-on 8 Mile rap battle between Jason David Frank and a monster, and I don't think that's too much to ask.
Unfortunately, we just get one quick scene of the Rangers speaking in rhyme --- because that's what rap is, right? --- and then the Pumpkin Rapper is taken out with the Power Blaster.
We don't even get to see the Megazord in this one!
In Ranger Station, each episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will be graded on a scale of one to ten in five categories, with a final score awarded with a maximum of fifty points.
Weirdness of the Monster: Pumpkin Rapper is maybe the most underused concept of the entire series, and considering how far off the rails Super Megaforce went, that's saying something. Burn! 7/10
Radness of the Music: If there was any justice in this world, Pumpkin Rapper would've dropped the hottest mixtape of 1994. 4/10
Bulk and Skull Friendship: They are literally ride or die for each other. 8/10
Moral Lessons: I have no category to express my intense frustration with this episode's treatment of the very concept of trick questions, so I'm doing it here because there sure as hell ain't a moral involved in this episode. 0/10
'90s Fashions: While most of the cast is in some kind of costume for most of the episode, please note that Tommy is rocking a faded plaid short-sleeve pullover flannel hoodie. That is off the scale. 10/10
Total For Episode 46: 29/50